The Borderworld - My interpretation of a modern xen!

This is my first post as a long-time lerker fan of the game, so hello Black Mesa community!

I would like to start a little blog about my new project of remaking the first map from Xen for black mesa source. The intention is to completely re-imagine an alternative start for xen which throws out the layout and game-play of the original maps, but maintains the Surreal but iconic look and feel to the Alien world. My primary focus is to explore remaking Xen is an living, reactive ecosystem which an emphasis on scaring and intriguing the player. I’ll be making this completely interdependent to whatever The black mesa team do with Xen as its just my personal exploration of how I would make the final chapters fun for the modern age.

To kick things off I’ve started off with figuring out how I would actually start making the art. When making anything in a new visual style I like to prototype some different techniques for making the kind of content I’ll need in good time. In this early phase I also like to start setting up all my brushes, alphas and materials I can reuse as and when I need to. So please understand a lot of this stuff is either WIP or just me playing around with methods of making stuff. For consistency all models will be rendered in DDO2 and all textures will be render in Crazybump until I start getting stuff ingame

Moreover I wont be talking about anything in too much depth until I feel the content foundations are laid and all my ideas are starting to form, right now I just want to start sharing my stuff with you guys and getting feedback. Working in a vacuum is no good for my motivation.

The first thing I made was a quick test prop for covering surfaces in slime, This probably won’t be used ingame but It was a useful technique which involved using a duplicated dynamic mesh of the original geo. offset slightly below the surface then applying a ‘stamps’ with a customized layer brush. The tentacles were make from zspheres. Considering the whole model from start to finish took about four Hours I think there’s some value in these techniques

After that I spent a few days making tileable textures; Most the work is done with custom brushes in Zbrush, then making tileable in photoshop.
At this point I really don’t bother much with getting the colours right since it’s impossible to tell how things look until they’re interacting with each other ingame, and you can just end up wasting time, depending on lighting and if you change your mind on the colour palette.

Lastly I decided to have some fun remaking some of the more Iconic props of the original xen; it just wouldn’t be xen without them.

I’ll continue to work on the base content and concepts for the next few months before getting stuff in-game. Every few weeks I’ll do a small post like this so you guys can see what I’ve been up to and keep me on track.


looking pretty slick!!!

Very Lovecraftian! I’m just blown away from a technical standpoint by how high-quality these are. I’m especially impressed with how you made the stabber trees into what looks like an actual sessile creature that has the ability to eat things which come too close.

In terms of aesthetics, though, I’m wondering if maybe you’re overdoing it a little with the flesh-tones. It’d be nice to see more of the yellow-greens, reds, and browns that characterized the original Xen.

I really like your basic suppositions. It’ll be real interesting to see where you take it. Thumbs up!

IT’S SO DAMN GOOD.I hope that you is just a bkbdale’s smurf since it’s a black mesa’s level of quality.It’s a pleasure for all of the Xen fans.

Woooooooow. SUPERB model.

Considering the quality of the models and textures, you seem to know what you’re doing.

Maybe try applying to the dev team, or just help them out with some modelling? That way you’d get your great models into the game and help the team.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel. 'Great work!

Goddamn, this is impressive! If I didn´t read the text before seeing those pictures, I honestly would´ve thought that these were the first xen-related news.

Thanks for all the kind words!

I’ve been thinking about making those obscure boney pillar things next though I’m not entirely sure what they’re meant to be. I really think they need to have like a biological function. My only current idea is they’re the outcrops of a larger organism which grows underground and the towers are used to elevate their spores which they release from little vents all the way up. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions?

@Admiral Sakai the fleshy tones are definitely unintentional, I haven’t made up my mind my mind of what I want to do with the palette yet. So I’ll definitely try to incorporate more of those greens and yellows to get some contrast in there!

They sure don´t seem to me like they´re designed to be elevators, more like some sort of pumps. Maybe some H.R. Giger-like biomechanical piston with vertical or spiral pattern?

I dunno, they seem more common on the Xenian rocks with a lot of electrical discharges going on, so I always thought of them as antennas or charge points of some kind.

That looks like something from the CC. Good stuff!

Hey Howser! Your work is amazing man! Really good quality work.

Can you elaborate a little bit on the creation of the tentacles with Zspheres? I thought you could only work on one model at a time in ZBrush, without it becoming essentially static, unless my noob self is basing Zbrush on assumptions. The ability to combine models and have them share a rotation value would open up so many more possibilities for me personally. Ah, I am a noob after all.

This work is really inspiring, and I find it to satisfy a need in my mind to see XEN with this level of Detail.

Oh man, I went from playing at 800 x 600 back in 98 to seeing this now, in 2016. It’s glorious.

Thanks a bunch for your submissions man, they really made me feel like it’s possible to persue a dream of becoming a graphic artist. 8o

Great work indeed :slight_smile:

Sorry about the lack of updates been extremely busy. And sadly paid work has to take precedence over the stuff I would actually like to make.

I have been doing a lot of concepting, storyboarding and planning as opposed to the showy stuff (my drawings rough). Im starting to lean towards using Unreal 4 due to the time and pain constraints of working with hammer; unless I can find someone who’s willing to help with that part!?

The good news (?) is work seem to be slowing down and I’ll be wrapping some projects up soon so hopefully I’ll more free time to get back on the case.

Also very exciting to hear/see how the BM team reimagine Xen!

@Curiously Its all about subtools! You can append a Zsphere and with it active press Shift + A to change to the secondary zspheres. Now when you draw these will zspheres can be drawn in freeform and will automatically snap to the surfaces of any other visible subtools you have. Really handy feature!

Hope that helps

I still think you should abandon this project and just help the Black Mesa developers with your modelling skills.
Helping them when you have the time.


@LordDz It would make sense to do so. I did apply for the environment artist position straight after starting the project but unfortunately never got a reply. BM is a very popular retail project I would assume they get a lot of applications. I would also assume it isn’t a shortage of talent that’s delayed xens release, but rather the amount of experimentation and development required to make something like that fun and work on the source engine.

I wanted to have a go at modernising xen regardless so I will just keep working on this. There’s a lot of fun in the freedom of just doing your own thing. Given the nature of xen’s loose suggestive design there’s endless ways it could be reimagined for modern engines. Its a really unique theme in that regards.

Founded in 2004, became one of the first online communities dedicated to Valve’s Source engine development. It is more famously known for the formation of Black Mesa: Source under the 'Leakfree Modification Team' handle in September 2004.